Eighteen months after declining to act on the issue, Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday will again be asked to support a resolution urging the state legislature to enact legislation to pemit medical aid in dying.

The concept, often referred to as death with dignity, has been adopted in nine states and the District of Columbia. In the language of the resolution, it would permit a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live to request a prescription for medication from a physician that the patient could choose to take for a peaceful death.

Addressing the committee in August 2018 Fay Clayton, an Evanston resident who’s a member of a national organization called Compassion & Choices that advocates for such statutes, said the laws already adopted in the other states have strict safeguards and that there have been no reports of abuses in the 21 years since Oregon became the first state to adopt such a law.

Clayton has been joined in supporting the measure by another local activist, Oliver Ruff. In a video interview last fall, Ruff said some African Americans are concerned that supporting the proposed law would go against their religious beliefs.

“We’re not saying we’re going to coerce you in any way to promote anything you’re not comfortable with,” Ruff said. “Every decision is a personal decision and we respect that, we honor that.”

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, is sponsoring the resolution that will go before the committee Monday.

Last time around, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said she couldn’t support the idea and Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said she didn’t believe the city should spend time having its legal staff review resolutions on issues that the city doesn’t control.

Earlier this month Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, objecting to council consideration of a resolution calling for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, asked for the Rules Committee to establish a policy about spending time debating matters outside the city’s control, suggesting she may share Fleming’s reservations about the death with dignity resolution.

During the last debate, only Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she supported the resolution. But she said it appeared that “a lot of education needs to be done” before the City Council might be ready to adopt it.

Braithwaite, Fiske, Fleming, Revelle and Rue Simmons are the five members of the Human Services Committee.

Related stories

Aldermen balk at death with dignity resolution (8/7/18)

Should Council vote on issues it can’t control? (1/19/20)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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